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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Becoming Astrid is a Swedish-made (and English subtitled) biopic about literary icon Astrid Lindgren. The film focuses on a difficult period in Lindgren's earlier life during the 1920s, before she began writing. As a teenager, Lindgren (Alba August) pursues an affair with her older, married boss. She's shown losing her virginity (not graphic), and her bare breasts are seen in several scenes. She becomes pregnant, which has the potential for serious repercussions due to the rigid views of the time. The film explores the social pressures of the era and offers teens a real-life example of how impetuous actions can result in unforeseen consequences. Lindgren's solutions don't necessarily fly by today's standards, which is why the film presents a fantastic opportunity for discussion. Eventually, Lindgren gets her life on the right track and uses her own character-building experience to become one of the world's most successful authors of children's books.
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What's the story?
BECOMING ASTRID explores the early life of best-selling children's book author Astrid Lindgren, the creator of Pippi Longstocking. As a teenage girl living in a strictly religious family/community in 1920s Sweden, spirited Astrid (Alba August) engages in a secret affair with her employer (Henrik Rafaelsen), who's in the midst of an acrimonious divorce. When Astrid becomes pregnant, she faces a series of difficult decisions that will impact her life -- as well as the lives of her baby, her lover, her friends, and her family.
Is it any good?
Getting kids excited about films with subtitles can be a challenge, but this one is worth the trip, as long as viewers understand who Astrid will eventually become and why she's significant. The film begins with an aged Lindgren reading letters from children about what her books mean to them; as Astrid's story then unfolds in a linear fashion, it returns to that device periodically. This lets viewers connect the events or feelings Lindgren experienced with situations and characters from her books. But if you don't know Pippi Longstocking, Emil, Ronia, Annika, etc., the relevance will be lost.
August is effective as a girl who doesn't see the point in following society's imaginary rules of conduct, but -- when she recklessly violates them -- still scrambles to do the least amount of damage. Viewers are told how repressive the environment was at the time, but it may be on the subtle side for teens, making it difficult to follow along in Astrid's shoes when it comes to the choices she makes about her baby. However, as a film about the impact of impetuous choices and the fact that you can rise above unfortunate circumstances, Becoming Astrid is as extraordinary as the author herself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Astrid's actions in Becoming Astrid. How would you have handled her circumstances? How did the turmoil change her? Do you think there's a connection between her personal difficulties and her success as an author? Why or why not?
The film depicts life in small-town Sweden many years ago. How is that different from your life? In what ways is it the same? How do you think you would have fared in Astrid's place?
Lindgren's most famous character, Pippi Longstocking, is a feminist icon, but it's debated whether she's a role model. Lindgren herself is a feminist icon. Based on the movie, do you consider her a role model?
Some of the words used to describe Lindgren's book characters include "rebellious," "artistic," "outspoken," "tenderhearted," "daring," and "brave." Do you think these apply to Astrid? Do you think authors incorporate parts of their own personalities into the characters they create?
Becoming Astrid is the rare film that was written by a woman and directed by a woman, and is about a woman of significance. How do you think female filmmakers influence a film about a woman's journey?
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